Hundreds of people have been killed and more than two million have fled Ukraine since Vladimir Putin ordered his troops into the country. Venezuela, of course, has become one of the most relevant countries out of the 11 governments that have openly supported Russia’s attack on Ukraine.
In a call between Putin and Nicolás Maduro, initiated by the latter, the Russian president insisted that the objectives of the military assault were to “protect the civilian population” of the Donbas separatist region and to get Kyiv to recognize Russian sovereignty over Crimea, which it annexed in 2014. Maduro also condemned “destabilizing actions of the United States and NATO” and spoke out against a Western campaign of “lies and disinformation.”
But when it comes to lies and disinformation, Maduro’s government has always had the right tools to promote its message. This week, the Venezuelan government began their social media propaganda strategy to promote their position: war means peace.
ProBox analyzed the conversation about the conflict on social media and registered at least 17 trends positioned in Venezuela about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, between February 22nd and March 8th. In that period, most of the 2.7 million tweets have been international, with mixed information about the conflict. The regime, civil society and the opposition have used specific narratives to stand for or against the conflict.
Let’s take a look at what the social media landscape looks like:
- #VenezuelaApuestaALaPaz: this trending topic promoted by the Ministry of Information accumulated 240,000 tweets.
- 68.43% were carried out by possible bots.
- This first official trend in favor of Russia promoted by the chavista regime coincides with a call between Maduro and Putin on March 1st where they discussed increasing strategic cooperation between the two countries.
- The main narrative sought to “condemn Western disinformation against Russia.”
- The label was also used by this State entity in messages that were not related to the subject.
- #VenezuelaConRusia: 4,105 tweets promoted by government entities, mainly by the regime-controlled Venezolana de Televisión.
- 42.95% of the tweets were carried out by possible bots, and many were shared with messages that had nothing to do with the conflict.
- #DiálogoEsPaz: 200,000 tweets promoted by the Ministry of Information.
- At least 61.03% of the messages were made by possible bots.
- They used the narrative of rejecting “aggressions against Russia and against the peoples of the world who are fighting for their self-determination,” accompanying the trend with images of the dialogue between Russia and Ukraine.
- Also, as usual, they used the hashtag in messages that have nothing to do with the conflict.
- #EEUUirrespeta: 38,000 tweets promoted by government entities.
- At least 52.56% of the tweets were made by possible bots.
- This trending topic was framed in the U.S. sanctions on Russia driven by the users of TROPA demanding the freedom of Álex Saab, they spoke of the “disrespect of the United States for international law, doing what it wants as it does with ambassador Saab.”
Venezuelan civil society and the opposition also spoke about the issue but in a completely different way. “It also seems important to highlight that the civil society and opposition trends are much smaller than the official ones, but much more real because the regime has a whole propaganda machine working to promote their agenda,” says Mariví Marin, director of Probox.
- #MaduroNoEsVenezuela: 5,632 tweets with 97.12% of the messages made by real users.
- This trend was fueled by citizens rejecting Maduro’s support for Russia, stating that Venezuelans “support Ukraine” and condemning the Russian invasion.
- #VzlaUnidaConUcrania: 9,847 tweets were promoted by the opposition, and at least 69.09% of the messages were made by real users.
- Representatives of the caretaker government, opposition political parties, their supporters, and the Frente Amplio de Mujeres positioned a trending topic in support for Ukraine.
- #VenezuelaConUcrania: 8,115 tweets promoted by the opposition.
- At least 90.75% of these messages were made by real users.
- This digital campaign in support of Ukraine went hand in hand with a demonstration in support of Ukraine called by the caretaker government in Caracas, in front of the headquarters of the European Union.
The timing of chavimo’s digital propaganda strategy is also pretty interesting: although the conflict had already begun and there were exhaustive international conversations, the ruling party in Venezuela had not promoted (online, at least) its propaganda in favor of Russia. Its “peace equals war” strategy began the same day Putin called Maduro.
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